Castro has terminal cancer, say U.S. experts

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Fidel CastroWASHINGTON -- The U.S. government believes Fidel Castro's health is deteriorating and that the Cuban leader is unlikely to live through 2007.

That dire view was reinforced last week when Cuba's foreign minister backed away from his prediction that the ailing Castro would return to power by early December. "It's a subject on which I don't want to speculate," Felipe Perez Roque said in Havana.

U.S. government officials say there is still some mystery about Castro's diagnosis, his treatment and how he is responding. But these officials believe the 80-year-old president has terminal cancer of the stomach, colon or pancreas.

He was seen weakened and thinner in official state photos released late last month, and it is considered unlikely he will return to power or survive through the end of next year, said the U.S. government and defence officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the politically sensitive topic.

With chemotherapy, Castro may live up to 18 months, said the defence official.

Without it, expected survival would drop to three months to eight months. American officials will not talk publicly about how they glean clues to Castro's health.

But U.S. spy agencies include physicians who study pictures, video, public statements and other information coming out of Cuba. The CIA's Office of Medical Services, for example, studies hair and other biological samples for hints about world leaders' health and how that could affect their official duties.

Video of Castro released in late October showed his now-slight frame and shaky movements and a dark lesion on his neck.

Castro, in power for 47 years, temporarily ceded control to his brother, Raul, at the end of July just before undergoing intestinal surgery.

source - AP 

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